Saturday, June 16, 2018

Doll Collection Update

We have been asked: What is happening with the Dolls? When can we see them?   

Our intention now is that the Dolls will be ready for display in the fall. 
Here are some pictures of our volunteers playing with the, they are  preparing the dolls to be photographed. Once that is completed, research will be done on each doll to determine the date it was made, what it is made of, and any interesting facts about that doll.  If you like dolls and have some expertise in that area, please contact Nancy King to volunteer.  We need help not only with the research, but also with ideas and props to use in the exhibit.  

Researchers: you can help us at home by doing Internet research on this wicker doll buggy/carriage, a recent acquisition to our doll collection.   It is about 20 " long and was made by the South Bend Toy Company.  We want to ascertain its date, and anything else you can find out about it, perhaps even what it cost new?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Joseph Tewalt

Actual signatures of A.R. Slawson, John Shepherd, Jasper Catlett and W. Tewalt,
when they signed as bondsmen in 1854.

Wouldn’t be nice if our ancestors didn’t keep naming their children after uncles or grandfathers, or even themselves? Researchers are constantly mixing up people with the same names. A good example of this is Joseph Tewalt. Either he died twice, a rather unique occurrence you must agree, or there were two Joseph Tewalt’s living in Russellville. 

The first death occurred in 1854 because the probate file at the Lawrence County courthouse states that Rachel Tewalt (the widow) resigned as Administratrix of the estate of Joseph Tewalt,deceased, in favor of A. R. Slawson. This document was filed October 24, 1854.  Abner R. Slawson then was sworn in as administrator on that same date by Thomas F. Watts, the Clerk.  John Shepherd, Jasper Catlett and William Tewalt posted bond for $5000 to insure that Slawson performed his duties according to law.

The 1850 census shows a Joseph Tewalt age 44, from Virginia living with Rachel, 50, Josiah, 18, and Elijah, 16. A tombstone for Joseph Tewalt states that he died Oct 10, 1854. So far, so good.

The second death of Joseph Tewalt was reported on September 14, 1888 in the Vincennes Daily Commercial. It has been suggested that the news of Tewalt’s death might have taken 34 years to reach Vincennes from Russellville, but I personally think that is highly unlikely.
“Uncle Joe Tewalt, the last of a once-large family, was buried at Russellville today.  He was born in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, in 1831. He died as he lived, a devoted Christian. He leaves a wife and three sons to mourn his death.  He was beloved by all who knew him. When one of his companions was speaking, there were not many dry eyes in the church. Bros. Philips, Wolf and Irwin’s remarks were from the heart.  The pallbearers were P.W. Beckes, J.R. Snapp, R.R. Philips, William Thomas, W.A. Noe and F.M. McCullough.

There appears to be two men named Joseph Tewalt. Or maybe not…the 1880 census says this last Tewalt’s name was actually Josiah; his wife’s name was Missouri, and they had three sons, George, Josiah and Bertie. Did the paper get it wrong?  The tombstone in Tewalt Cemetery in Russellville is clearly engraved Josiah Tewalt, died September 9, 1888. So be careful genealogists of believing everything you read.  Always check several sources.   

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Toy Projector

These two pictures were taken of a recent acquisiton.   The size of the machine is 14”x 9” and weighs 3 lbs. It was patented in 1919, 1920 and 1921. We, of course, had questions as it was so small for a movie projector of that era.  Kaye F. researched this item and discovered that it was a toy projector made by Keystone Manufacturing Company,  a toy company based out of Boston Massachusetts, and not associated with Keystone Movie Studios. 

Children took turns cranking the projector at the right speed
Popular Mechanics December 1924
to watch the movies. It cost $6.95 during the depression which was quite of money for a child’s toy at that time. That would be $99.00 in today's money. A reel of film showing Charlie Chaplin in the short film “Golf Practice was included.   Other movies that could be purchased were Charlie Chaplin in "Fun in the Bakeshop," Wm. S. Hart in the "New Sheriff," and Tom Mix in "The Battle on Horseback."  Theatre tickets and slides that could be drawn upon were also included.

An electric cord was included "for connecting to any lamp socket that would fit but could also be used for dry cell batteries for those homes without electricity."   The inside is open space in which to place a lightbulb, or lamp as it was called then. 

The ad states that every live boy shoud have, at home or club, a Keystone Moviegraph that shows pictures the same as in the movies.

Ed Note:  What could be safer that a electric light bulb inside a metal box, running flammable nitrate film through a projector by hand for kids to play with?  And why the reference to "live" boy? As opposed to a ...what? Dead boy?

These are two drawings from the patent office, slightly different from ours because the inventor was trying to cool the interior of the machine but the drawings do show how the interior looked. We thought our little projector was missing the top reel (Part 14) but when we managed to open the back it was safely tucked inside. However  the other reel shown in the advertisement from Popular Mechanics is missing.   If any of you find this part at an auction or yard sale or on ebay we would be very appreciative if you would purchase it and help us restore this great item in our toy collection.   An original film reel would be great also.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tornado in Lawrenceville 1971

May 6, 1971 The Daily Record A windstorm swept through Lawrence County shortly before 10:00 am from the the northwest leaving a trail of uprooted trees, damaged farm building and broken windows.
At 10:10 A.M. a small tornado was sighted south of Lawrenceville by Mrs. John Finley, that heavily damaged Finley's barn.  The barn is located about 75-100 yards north of the house.  Her husband had just pulled into the driveway  a short distance north of his house in his pickup truck when the storm struck.  He tried to open the doors of the truck but the wind was so strong he couldn't.  After the tornado had passed, he ran to the barn to check on his cows and found that all were still alive.

Mrs. Finley, who was in the house at the time the tornado struck said she saw a twisting cloud formation come from the west, passing just north of the house. The twister continued on eastward across a field, destroying a barn about a quarter of a mile away.

In Lawrenceville trees were knocked down, streets were temporarily flooded and an auto reportedly blown over east of Lawrenceville on Bus. 50.  The screen at the Midway Drive- In was blown down and the theater manager, Jim Totten, said that shows would be held at the Avalon theatre temporarily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Part 2 of the Anatole/Capitol Movie Theaters in Bridgeport

Continued from the Anatole/Capitol Movie Theater in Bridgeport post of yesterday

Bridgeport had two theaters around 1920 because of the demand for movies and the influx of money from the oil industry into the town’s economy. The Bijou Theater was on Washington Street, less than a block from the Anatole. “It was much like a drive-in,” Petty recalled. “The Bijou didn’t last too long. It was a large open-air theater with bleachers and you had to wait for darkness before showing the pictures,” Petty continued.

The theater was renamed the Capitol after Hurley Gould sold it to the Frisina Amusement Company of Springfield, Illinois on November 5, 1936. By 1938, Frisina Theatres Co. operated forty theatres in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.  They constructed the New Moon Theater at Sixth and Main Street in Vincennes at a cost of $150,000.  That theater could seat 1,500 moviegoers.

When Frisina bought the AnatoleTtheater in Bridgeport, two electric neon lights spelling out CAPITOL were added on top of the canopy roof. The Leader reported that two great domes would permit the movie titles to be flashed in lights. The Capitol opened on Friday, November 6, 1936, with a double movie feature, ‘Grand Jury,’ starring Fred Stone, followed by Buck Jones in the ‘Phantom Rider’, and a newsreel. Frisina added Tuesday matinee after school. Tuesday and Wednesday became famous as ‘Bank Nites’, while Friday was ‘Dime Night’ with ten cents admission.

Customers attending the Tuesday and Wednesday programs could register for cash prizes. Roy Rucker, publisher of the Leader, would draw the winning entries in front of the theater between shows. Tully remembers ‘Bank Nites’ well, because his wife, Betty, won $600 in 1946. The couple had just gotten married and happened to attend the movies the night before leaving for their new home in Chicago. “They told us when we got to Chicago that Betty had won and we turned around and returned to Bridgeport. That was a lot of money in those days and we didn’t want to lose it,” Tully said.

Television and competition from theaters in Vincennes, Lawrenceville, Mount Carmel, and Sumner, began luring customers from the Capitol. Frisina tried again and again to make the Capitol into a profitable business. The dwindling crowds forced Frisina to close the theater on September 21, 1950, with plans to reopen later. The Capitol opened again on February 1, 1951 and operated until March 27, 1954. Eight months later, the Capitol reopened for three months before Frisina closed the theater for good on February 26, 1955. The last feature film at the Capitol was “Four Guns to the Border” starring Rory Calhoun.

The local newspaper finished coverage of the theater’s closing on a sad note. “The darkening of Chestnut Street will make a marked impression on the citizens of Bridgeport and the shows will be missed by many.” 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Anatole/Capitol MovieTheater in Bridgeport

Memories from the Matinees

A November 3, 1981 Valley Advance shared the memories of local residents about the Bridgeport movie theaters. Joe Tully, owner of the Gaslight Motel near Lawrenceville in 1981, recalled what happened when he and some friends went to the Anatole Theater in Bridgeport as boys.

“My friend was in the front row and jumped from his seat to shout at the screen. He threatened to leave the theater if the bad guy didn’t start stop whooping it up on Tom Mix in the silent Western movie. Mix soon began winning the fight and all of us kids calmed down again,” Tully said. That kind of excitement prevailed during many a Saturday afternoon that Tully spent in the theater in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It made no difference whether the show was silent or a new ‘talkie. ’

Bridgeport businessman, Clifford Gray, remembered in 1981 getting excited by the piano music and the “shoot ‘em up” Westerns at the theater as early as 1918. Gray was a 10-year-old boy growing up in an oil boom town of about 4000 people. “I liked cowboy films and the piano music that the theater had to go along with the movies,” he said. “You really got excited when the music jazzed up during the action scenes. The piano player could even make the sound of horse hooves galloping,” Gray noted.

The Anatole began in the early part of the 1900s and was owned by local businesswoman Hurley Gould. The theater was located on Chestnut Street between Main and Washington Streets in Bridgeport. A newspaper clipping from the Bridgeport Leader reveals that the theater was open by April 2, 1914.

The Anatole advertised admission prices of $.10 for Saturday and Sunday matinees and $.25 for night programs in the 1930s. The programs changed four times a week and included a feature movie, cartoon and selected short subjects. Upcoming movies were publicized by posters in a glass billboard at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets.  Gray said, “The Theater would sell out both shows on Saturday night when oilfield workers and farmers came to town. Cars would be parked everywhere downtown and you wouldn’t get a ticket if you didn’t get to the theater early enough,” Gray said.

The Anatole became so popular in the 1920s that city officials agreed to set up a special election to determine if the theater could open on Sundays. “The vote to approve the measure was not even close,” Bob Petty of Bridgeport said.

The theater was a square brick building about 40 feet long with around 200 seats. A canopy roof over the ticket booth and the two front doors extended to Chestnut Street. Just inside the building was a small foyer and popcorn stand and a pair of doors leading to the auditorium. The projection room was located above the foyer. “There was not a bad seat in the place for watching movies. The seats were on a sharp incline down to the screen, and you definitely knew you were going up and down when you walked in the two aisles,” Petty noted. 

At the base of the screen was a narrow stage and small pit for the piano or organ. “The stage was used only a couple times for a magic show,” Tully said.

The movies at the Anatole spawned several heroes for Tully and his friends. Tom Mix, Ken Maynard and Vincennes native, Buck Jones were favorite cowboy stars. Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, the Dead End Kids, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd kept the crowds laughing. “We really got excited in those days and everyone pay close attention to the silent movies so you wouldn’t miss a thing. I bet you could’ve walked up to any kid in the Saturday matinee crowds and he or she could tell you exactly what was going to happen and what was about to happen,” Tully said. 

The first sound movie at the Anatole was in 1927, when Al Jolson starred in the Jazz Singer,” Tully said. “As the talkies began coming to the theater, you could relax a little more because you heard what was being said. We still paid close attention to the movies, but you didn’t have to imagine any parts of the conversations,” he added.

Continued tomorrow

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Movie Theaters in Bridgeport and Baby Pictures

Here are more of the photographs taken of Lawrence County children in the 40s and 50s. If you know any of these cute kids, please let us know.  We really want to identify as many photos as possible. 

Next week we will post the history of the movie theaters in Bridgeport. Here are a couple of items in advance. 

Bridgeport Leader December 27, 1934 Matinee at Anatole
Entertainment has been promised for New Year’s Day by the Anatole Theater with the presentation of the showing of “The White Parade,” a story filled with a thrilling, yet soothing and lovely story of a nurse and her interesting work. The film will be shown Wednesday evening. Sunday and Monday the Anatole will feature “Hide-Out” as a rural picture spotted with only a smithering of gangster contact to make it appealing and interesting. Matinee -Sunday afternoon.

From handwritten notes found in the file that had once been at Irene Black’s library,  Norma Cox Staver had made a list of employees at the theater that she could remember. Mrs. Pearl Moody England played the piano some of the time but Mrs. Hazel Stewart played the piano most of the time. Mrs. Mildred Sims McNew, Mr. Russell? Skaggs, and Tom Fiscus were listed but not in what capacity.  Trilla Grace Skinner was an usher; Rosemary Black Troxel sold tickets and was a cashier. Mrs. LaPlante was also a cashier and sold tickets.  Carrie Schrader took Mrs. LaPlante’s place and sold tickets. Norma Staver stated she paid five cents for admission as a child until she was 12 years old but eventually had to pay $.25 because Carrie Schrader knew her age so she couldn’t lie anymore. If you or your much older relatives, of course, have any memories of this theater we would love it if you would share with us.